August 26th, 2011
11:07 AM ET

Hurricane Irene forces cancellations, changes to East coast weekend plans

Hurricane Irene has put all sorts of end-of-summer festivities on hold. Here's a rundown of some plans that have had to be reworked ahead of this weekend's hurricane:

The dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial in Washington has been postponed until September or October.

Amtrak canceled service in parts of the Northeast for the weekend.

Several colleges have had to make scheduling changes. New York University pushed back the beginning of move-in week for incoming freshmen to Monday, and Fairfield University in Fairfield, Connecticut, moved its day to Tuesday. Rutgers University has changed its move-in date for residence halls on the New Brunswick/Piscataway campus to Saturday.

The New York Jets will start a pre-season game against the Giants earlier Saturday due to the approaching storm. Kickoff has been changed from 7 p.m. ET to 2 p.m. Saturday.

The Hampton Classic announced on its website that the event, which was supposed to start Sunday, will be postponed since horses cannot be transported and stabled this weekend. The show will begin on Wednesday instead.

B.B. King was supposed to play at Jones Beach on Saturday. The event has been canceled.

The U.S. Open, which is scheduled to begin Monday, is thus far going ahead with those plans. The hurricane is forecast to have passed Flushing Meadows, New York at that point.

Airlines are waiving cancellation and change fees because of the hurricane.

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Filed under: District of Columbia • Maryland • New York • North Carolina • South Carolina • U.S. • Virginia
August 24th, 2011
06:33 PM ET

Alaska's 'Hot-sauce Mom' convicted of child abuse

An Alaska mother's segment on "Dr. Phil" has landed her with the possibility of a jail sentence.

Jessica Beagley was found guilty of misdemeanor child abuse Tuesday. In November, she appeared on the talk show to discuss a video she had submitted of her disciplinary method, in which she had her then 6-year-old son hold hot sauce in his mouth and take a cold shower, said Anchorage prosecutor Cynthia Franklin. The video, which Beagley had e-mailed to the show in November 2009, ignited a debate about whether the tactic constituted abuse.

In the episode, which aired on November 17, 2010, host Phil McGraw challenges Beagley, calling the discipline over-the-top, outrageous and abusive. Authorities launched an investigation on the same day the episode, called "Mommy Confessions," aired.

Beagley's sentencing is scheduled for Monday. She could face a up to year in jail and fine of up to $10,000. Franklin said she was unable to provide any more commentary on the case, because Beagley's sentence is still pending.

The segment featured a home movie of Beagley punishing her son for getting in trouble at school and lying about it. In confessional-style explanations, Beagley provided commentary, saying she had tried other methods of discipline, including time outs and spankings, but to no avail.

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Filed under: Alaska • Child safety • Courts • Justice • U.S.
August 19th, 2011
11:39 AM ET

Sitter charged after taking baby on ride in back of pickup

A Florida babysitter was charged with child neglect after taking a baby in his stroller for a ride the bed of  a pickup.

According to 911 calls, several people contacted Daytona Beach police Wednesday when they saw the stroller in the back of the truck.

"It's not something you see every day," Daytona Beach police Chief Mike Chitwood told CNN affiliate WESH. "I hope they revoke her babysitting license for that. Would you want her watching your kid?"

The babysitter, Keyona Davis, 23, said in a court appearance Thursday that she had a firm grip on the stroller and that she did not realize her actions constituted neglect.

Davis' public defender had argued that the charge of child neglect was too harsh, as the baby was unharmed.

"It's only if the pickup crashes, the child will be injured or hurt," a public defender said in court.

Davis replied, "Exactly!"

Davis said she didn't realize that police would consider what she did as "negligent."

"It's not like they give you a handbook or anything," she said.

Davis was released from jail on her own recognizance. Police are still investigating the driver of the truck and the baby's mother.

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Filed under: Child safety • Crime • Florida • U.S.
New fighter jet to bolster Russian air force
The T-50 performs during the MAKS 2011 air show outside Moscow. It is meant to rival the U.S. F-22 Raptor.
August 17th, 2011
11:44 AM ET

New fighter jet to bolster Russian air force

Russia's new stealth fighter jet made its public debut Tuesday, according to state-run news source RIA Novosti.

The Sukhoi T-50, developed collaboratively by Russia and India, appeared at the MAKS 2011 air show in Zhukovsky, outside Moscow.

Gen. Alexander Zelin, head of the Russian air force, told RIA Novosti he expects the T-50 prototype to be ready in 2013, with "mass-produced aircraft" arriving in 2014 or 2015.

The aircraft is expected to become a staple of airborne defense for both Russia and India, Mikhail Pogosyan, head of Russia's United Aircraft Corp., told RIA Novosti.

"The T-50 will be the newest main plane both for the Russian and the Indian air force," Pogosyan said.

The article from the state-run media source says the Sukhoi T-50 cost the two governments about $6 billion to develop, with India shouldering about 35% of the cost. It is intended to match the U.S. F-22 raptor.

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Filed under: Aviation • India • Military • Russia • World
NCAA's stricter academic rules: What does it mean for your team?
UConn;s Kemba Walker sports a No. 1 shirt after winning the NCAA championship, but under new rules his team wouldn't have made it to the dance.
August 17th, 2011
09:04 AM ET

NCAA's stricter academic rules: What does it mean for your team?

The NCAA is raising its academic requirements for postseason competition, including bowl games and March Madness, the organization announced Thursday in a news release.

Had the new rules been in effect during the 2010-11 academic year, the University of Connecticut would not have been able to compete in (and win) the NCAA basketball tournament. Syracuse and Florida State would have also been barred from the Big Dance, and the University of Southern California wouldn't have qualified for the "First Four" play-in game it lost to Virginia Commonwealth.

The NCAA calculates an academic progress rate that measures retention and graduation rates for every Division I team, reflecting the previous four academic years. The score comes out to a number as high as 1,000. Since its introduction in 2005, teams with APRs below 925 would face penalties, such as losing scholarships. Postseason bans would be issued only after three consecutive years of APRs below 900.

When the new rule is in full effect, only teams that have APRs of at least 930 will be able to compete in the postseason, according to a NCAA news release. The new rule will be gradually implemented over the next five years.  An APR of 930 comes out to a 50% graduation rate, according to the news release.

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Filed under: Basketball • College basketball • College football • Education • Football • Sports
August 12th, 2011
07:55 AM ET

The stories of those who lost their lives in Chinook crash

Editor's note: For more details of those who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan please visit our Home & Away interactive feature. You can also click on the names of those who died in the Chinook crash below to leave a message or memorial. You can also click here to learn more about each of those who died and what their family members had to say about them.

[Updated Friday at 7:53 a.m. ET] The U.S. Defense Department released the names of U.S. military personnel killed in Saturday's downing of a helicopter in Afghanistan.

Thirty-eight people were killed in that attack, eight of them Afghan military personnel. It was the single largest loss of life for U.S. troops since the Afghan war began in late 2001.

Of the 30 Americans, 17 were Navy SEALs.  Twenty-two of the dead were U.S. Navy personnel, the Pentagon said.  Fifteen were SEALs belonging to the top-secret unit that conducted the raid that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden at a compound in Pakistan.  Two others were SEALs assigned to a regular naval special operations unit.

Five were so-called conventional forces with particular specialties who regularly worked with the SEALs. The other eight U.S. troops killed were three Air Force forward air controllers and five Army helicopter crew members.

NATO said it killed the militants responsible for the attack.  Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid rejected that, saying a NATO airstrike killed a separate group of insurgents.

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August 5th, 2011
04:38 PM ET

Media firestorm surrounds 10-year-old's suggestive fashion shoot

A 10-year-old model's low-cut dress, stiletto heels, heavy makeup and sultry gaze in a Vogue Paris fashion editorial has raised some eyebrows around the Web.

Lots of little girls dress up in their mothers' heels and dresses, but photos of Thylane Loubry Blondeau dolled up to look like a grown woman are, to some, just too convincing. "Creepy" and "weird" are among the more common words used in the headlines that have cropped up regarding the fashion editorial.

The photos actually ran months ago, in Vogue Paris' December/January issue, and they received some criticism at the time. But the images of Blondeau - the daughter of a fashion designer and a former soccer player - have recently ignited the blogosphere in a debate about what is and isn't appropriate treatment for child stars, though it's unclear why the photos are just now receiving so much media attention.

The Los Angeles Times addressed the photos in an article Friday headlined, "10-year-old Vogue model: Pretty or pretty weird?" The New York Daily News wrote Thursday, "Thylane Loubry Blondeau photos: 10-year-old model's sultry Vogue spread sparks controversy," and the International Business Times dubbed the images a "sexualized photo spread."

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Filed under: Child safety • France
Lava closes part of national park as Kilauea crater collapses
Kilauea's Puu Oo crater collapsed more than 250 feet Wednesday.
August 5th, 2011
12:38 PM ET

Lava closes part of national park as Kilauea crater collapses

The lava-filled crater in Hawaii's Kilauea volcano collapsed more than 250 feet Wednesday, according to the Hawaii Volcano Observatory.

The Puu Oo crater, which holds a lake of lava inside the cone at Kilauea's summit, last collapsed in March. Wednesday's collapse created a lava flow that split into two directions and closed a portion of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. It did not affect any areas outside the park's boundaries.

Click here to see a collection of footage, photos and time-lapse video of the lava-spewing crater

According to an update from the Hawaii Volcano Observatory on Thursday night, "The crater rim remained extremely unstable, with continued collapses along the crater walls sending blocks of rock onto the crater floor."

Kilauea has been erupting continually since 1983. Hawaii's volcanoes erupt effusively, meaning runny lava bubbles up and flows out, as opposed to building up pressure and exploding violently.

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Filed under: Hawaii • Nature • U.S. • Volcanoes
Sea turtle released after 14-month rehab for broken shell
Andre, shown here in March, was released into the ocean Wednesday after 14 months of treatment.
August 4th, 2011
05:20 PM ET

Sea turtle released after 14-month rehab for broken shell

A marine conservation center in Florida has repaired an injured sea turtle's shell with materials used in human orthodontia and  released it back into the ocean Wednesday.

Beachgoers in Juno Beach, Florida, discovered a green sea turtle on Father's Day of 2010. "Andre" was floating close to shore with two gaping injuries from boat propellers in his shell. One wound exposed his spinal cord while the other had filled with three pounds of sand and was badly infected, said Melissa Ranly, hospital coordinator at Loggerhead Marinelife Center. Ranly said she "got in the turtle ambulance" to bring Andre in to the center.

Despite the severity of his injuries, which also included a collapsed lung, Andre was not acting like an animal that was ready to die, Ranly said.

"Even from the time we got him in the sling and in the ambulance that day, we saw that he had a kind of energy to him that we didn't expect," Ranly said. "We just noted that this turtle was strong. Even though he had these really severe wounds, he just had this life about him and was in it for the long haul."

Andre's unusual tenacity called for some unusual veterinary care, Ranly said. The center borrowed a negative pressure wound vacuum to clean out the newer, sand-filled injury and re-inflate Andre's lung. Once the injuries inside the shell were healed, the veterinary team sought to fix the damage to the shell. They contacted an orthodontist, who used palate expanders to position Andre's shell so that it would heal.

As Andre regained his strength over the past year, he attracted a large following of fans who would monitor his progress in person or via a webcam, Ranly said. Many of Andre's  supporters went to see him released into the Atlantic Ocean on Wednesday.

"Because he had so many obstacles to overcome, I think people really embraced the story," Ranly said.

Ranly said injuries like Andre's are relatively common in South Florida, where there is heavy boat traffic. The way to avoid them, she said, is to operate boats at a slow enough speed that turtles surfacing for air will have time to dive out of the boat's way.

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Filed under: Animals • Florida • Turtles • U.S.
Heat a threat to man and machine
The National Weather Service says it's dangerously hot in 15 states.
August 4th, 2011
12:41 PM ET

Heat a threat to man and machine

Dallas has seen a solid month of triple-digit temperatures, and 15 states are under National Weather Service heat advisories. To put those figures into some historical and scientific context, here's a round of hot-weather factoids. If you're in one of those 15 sweltering states, please drink a glass of water while you read them.

  • NOAA has records of heat-related fatalities going back to 1986. For the first decade of data, the number of deaths did not top double digits until a disastrous 1995, when 1,021 people died. According to NOAA, about 700 of those deaths were in Chicago.
  • Between 1986 and 1997, the median annual number of heat-related fatalities was 36. Between 1998 and 2010, it was 158.
  • Seven high temperature records were broken Wednesday, and six were tied in Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, Arkansas and Missouri.
  • In parts of Missouri, the previous record was from the day before. Wednesday's high of 110 degrees beat out the all-time high of 106 that was set Tuesday.
  • Participants in the raw foods movement do not eat food that has been prepared at temperatures greater than 104 degrees Fahrenheit. They should therefore steer clear of picnicking in Dallas or Oklahoma City, where today's forecast high is 110 degrees.
  • Scientists say the average temperature on Earth during the Cretaceous period was just a chilly 82 degrees, though individual locations were much hotter.
  • Apple recommends not operating its iPod Touch, iPad and iPhone in temperatures greater than 95 degrees. They can be stored at up to 113 degrees, but parked cars get hotter than that.
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Filed under: Arkansas • Heat • Kansas • Missouri • Oklahoma • Texas • U.S. • Weather
Sexual assault cases raise concern at University of Michigan
Ann Arbor police released two composites based on victims' descriptions of their attackers.
August 3rd, 2011
03:56 PM ET

Sexual assault cases raise concern at University of Michigan

Parents and students of incoming freshman at the University of Michigan expressed concern this week in the wake of a series of sexual assaults near campus.

Six women were attacked within 11 days starting on July 15, said Lt. Angella Abrams of the Ann Arbor Police Department. In each incident, victims gave similar descriptions of their assailant, which yielded two composites.

In one incident on July 15, a woman reported that a man between 20 and 30 years old grabbed her as she spoke on her cell phone. The attacker - who she said had short, dark hair and olive skin - tried to drag her away, Ann Arbor police said. In another incident three days later, the victim said she was walking between two buildings on the edge of campus when a white man - about 20 years old and with dark hair and eyes - sexually assaulted her.

Though the number of perpetrators is unclear, police believe the incidents could be related but do not have any suspects in custody, Abrams said.

“There’s a common description,” Abrams said. “There’s a common M.O.  of what has occurred to the women. And we’re also talking an 11-day period (of) criminal sexual assaults on women that have a common theme. That is not something that occurs, generally. This is a very safe town. This is 11 days of sexual assaults of women. That is highly unusual. That has led us to believe that we have a predator or predators who is preying on women.”

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Filed under: Crime • Education
Hugo Chávez stars in workout video
President Hugo Chávez is shown in July at a military academy, where he worked out as part of his recovery.
August 1st, 2011
12:00 PM ET

Hugo Chávez stars in workout video

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has released a workout video to demonstrate that he is healthy enough for re-election.

Having recently returned from Cuba, where he received chemotherapy for an unspecified type of cancer, Chávez has told state-run media in Venezuela that he has no intention of dropping out of the running in next year's election. Chávez has been president since 1999.

In the video, Chávez adopts the dress and demeanor of a typical phys. ed. teacher. He leads members of his Cabinet in stretches, some calf raises and a brisk walk while denouncing cholesterol as a poison.

According to an article that was released Friday on Chávez's website, the video was originally aired by Venezolana de Television, Venezuela's state-run television channel.

Speaking of his chemotherapy in July to VTV, Chávez said, "It was hard, but my soldier's body was able to withstand the small discomforts of this difficult treatment."

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Filed under: Venezuela • World
July 29th, 2011
01:33 PM ET

'Breast Milk Baby' manufacturers to display toy at Las Vegas expo

Children no longer have to deny their dolls the benefits of breast milk.

A Spanish toy manufacturer will begin U.S. sales next week of a classic baby doll with a high-tech twist: the simulation of breast-feeding. Berjuan Toys will be at the ASD trade show in Las Vegas, which starts Monday, with hopes of meeting with retailers who might want to sell the Breast Milk Baby. Those who don't want to wait can buy one online.

HLN's Robin Meade and Jennifer Westhoven couldn't agree on how they felt about the toy.

The doll, which comes in six different combinations of race and gender, comes with a cropped shirt that makes possible a toned-down version of nursing. In the news release on Berjuan's site, the company explains how the toy works.

"The Breast Milk Baby simulates the breast-feeding process by including a fashionable halter-top that a young girl can put on like a vest, and when she brings the Breast Milk Baby doll’s mouth up to the pretty flower decoration on the vest, the doll makes a soft, suckling sound," the announcement says. "The two flowers on the halter are positioned where the nipples would be, and when the mouth of the doll is brought close to the embedded sensors in the flower, the baby makes motions and suckling sounds."

Berjuan's announcement acknowledges the mixed responses that have been aimed at the Breast Milk Baby.

"Some critics say that the doll [is] over-sexualizing young girls or forcing girls to grow up too quickly, but the company and those in support of the doll say that it teaches young girls natural motherhood," the news release says.

No word yet on what this will do to the market for imaginary baby formula, nor on what the proper etiquette is for breast-feeding one's doll in public.

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Filed under: U.S.
July 28th, 2011
10:39 AM ET

Latex Casey Anthony mask fetches almost $1 million on eBay

A big spender on eBay shelled out almost $1 million to get inside Casey Anthony's head.

A Los Angeles eBay user called "prophunter" wound up with six rubber renderings of Anthony's face that had been used in a parody video and put one of them up for auction on eBay. That first mask  garnered a winning bid of $999,900 Wednesday. It beat out 104 other bids that started at $25 on  Monday.

In the description field for the item, the seller billed it as "possibly the most frightening mask on the planet."

The mask's expression is, well, expressionless, capturing the image that became a national obsession over the course of Anthony's almost six-week trial for the 2008 death of her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee. Anthony was acquitted on July 5, drawing the vocal ire of crowds outside the courthouse, social media users and television personalities nationwide.

On HLN's Showbiz News Tonight on Wednesday, Popeater.com columnist Rob Shuter pronounced then-active bidding "tasteless, but it is capitalism."

For comparison's sake, the most expensive set of Charlton Heston's stone tablets from "The Ten Commandments" fetched $87,000 at Christie's in 1995, which would be a little more than $120,000 today.

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Filed under: Casey Anthony • Courts • Crime • Justice
All about the Benjamins: Comic raps on follies of debt-ceiling fight
Comedian Remy Munasifi is superimposed in front of Washington landmarks while rapping in "Raise the Debt Ceiling."
July 27th, 2011
03:48 PM ET

All about the Benjamins: Comic raps on follies of debt-ceiling fight

Raps about rival gangs are so Clinton-era. It's all about Democrats and Republicans these days.

Comedian Remy Munasifi appears in a music video posted Tuesday on YouTube called "Raise the Debt Ceiling," about the current impasse on Capitol Hill.

With about 39,000 views as of Wednesday afternoon, the video has gone somewhat viral. The video appeared on ReasonTV, the YouTube channel for Reason magazine, a libertarian monthly that promotes what it calls "free minds and free markets."

The music video features the comic superimposed in front of Washington landmarks, Benjamin Franklin's $100-bill mug and a graffitied wall inscribed with "Greenspan 1987-2005" and "Fed Life." Throughout the video, he employs an apropos "raise the roof" dance move.

Munasifi appeared Wednesday on "CNN Newsroom."

"When you watch the coverage, it's Republicans calling the Democrats crazy and the Democrats calling the Republicans crazy. I was looking at the debate and thinking, 'Look, you're all crazy.' And all this spending kind of fits in well with a bad rap."

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Filed under: Budget • District of Columbia • Economy • Politics • U.S.
July 26th, 2011
04:56 PM ET

Valedictorian sues school: Was she snubbed because of race?

A recent high school graduate from Arkansas is suing her school district, claiming it refused to recognize her as the school's sole valedictorian because she is black.

Kymberly Wimberly, 18, earned the highest grade point average in McGehee Secondary School's 2011 graduating class. She did so as a young mother, according to the complaint she submitted to the U.S. District Court for Arkansas' Eastern District. She was named the school's valedictorian and then later given co-valedictorian status with a white student who had lower grades, her complaint says.

Kymberly Wimberly

No legal response has been filed by lawyers for the school district or any other school or district representatives, according to court officials. Superintendent Thomas Gathen said he has yet to be served with any sort of court documents. Because of this, Gathen said he was unable to comment on several individual issues brought up in Wimberly's complaint.

"The issue that someone’s trying to paint is that this was a racially motivated," Gathen told CNN. "That wasn’t an issue with (the co-valedictorians). This is strictly an academic issue and a policy issue, not a racial issue."

Wimberly is seeking punitive damages of $75,000 and recognition as the sole valedictorian of her class. Wimberly's complaint also argues the McGehee school district, in southeastern Arkansas not too far from the Mississippi River, habitually withheld access to challenging classes from black students.

Wimberly said students were told at a schoolwide assembly that advance placement classes were very rigorous and that only those who really thought they would thrive with intense workloads should elect to take them. Then, individual students were taken aside and told that the classes really weren’t all that bad, she told CNN. The overwhelming majority of those students were white, she said, adding that she was the only black student in her AP literature class and one of two in calculus.

“Black students are meant to stay in regular course levels and mostly play sports,” Wimberly said. “That’s what were good at that that’s what we should stick to - that’s the mentality of McGehee.”

Wimberly said she had one teacher, for AP biology, who encouraged all students to take the class. Its racial makeup was half black, half white, and was more reflective of McGehee's student population, which is 46%  black.

The case has been gaining increasing attention since Courthouse News Service reported on it Monday.

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Filed under: Arkansas • Civil Rights • Courts • Education • Justice • Race • U.S.
NASA hopes to shuttle former employees into new jobs
NASA workers look on as space shuttle Atlantis is towed back to its hangar on July 21 at Florida's Kennedy Space Center.
July 26th, 2011
11:38 AM ET

NASA hopes to shuttle former employees into new jobs

NASA is holding a career fair in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Tuesday to help its former contract employees to find new jobs now that the shuttle program is ending.

Among those who will be rubbing elbows with government and private recruiters are some of the engineers NASA hired to maintain the shuttle's 20 different systems  "every part of the shuttle that required a team of engineers and technicians to get it ready for the next flight," said Lisa Malone, a NASA spokeswoman."

Over the years, NASA has been downsizing those teams, with Cape Canaveral seeing the most layoffs, including 1,500 on Friday, Malone said.

"I would say the lion's share of (the layoffs) has been in Florida," she said.

According to a fact sheet from NASA, the agency plans to lay off 2.223 Florida "shuttle prime contractors" in fiscal 2011, for a total of 4,371 layoffs in Florida since 2008. At the end of the year, NASA expects to have laid off 9,425 shuttle contractors nationwide since 2008.

In addition to engineers, NASA's  contract employees included accountants, human resources personnel, "everything it takes to run an organization," Malone said.

Workers have known about impending layoffs, in some respect, since President George W. Bush announced the end of the shuttle program, Malone said. She said NASA and the recruiters hope about 1,000 former employees will come to the career fair and apply for new jobs.

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Filed under: NASA • Space
Before the Aston Martin, there was Kate Middleton's VW Golf
Before her wedding day ride in this vintage Aston Martin, Kate Middleton's ride was a VW Golf.
July 25th, 2011
01:44 PM ET

Before the Aston Martin, there was Kate Middleton's VW Golf

If a commemorative tea set just won't cut it, collectors of royal memorabilia may still have a shot at snagging Kate Middleton's beat-up old Volkswagen Golf.

According to the eBay listing for the car, the bidding for Princess Catherine's pre-royal chariot, which she bought in 2001, got up to ÂŁ48,100, which comes out to a little more than $78,000.

The bidding ended before getting up to the seller's minimum asking price, which is not disclosed on the page.

According to the seller's description, the car comes with documentation showing that it was passed from Middleton to her brother before the family sold it as part of an exchange with car dealer Al Brazil, the seller's father.

On Yahoo Autos, 2001 Golfs are going for between $5,000 and $8,000.

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Filed under: Auctions • Kate Middleton
Cool trivia for a very hot day
In the grip of a sweltering heat wave, people are finding creative ways to cool off.
July 22nd, 2011
12:14 PM ET

Cool trivia for a very hot day

The heat wave that was smothering the Midwest has moved east and is coupling with a heaping dose of sticky humidity to produce a sauna-like effect along the Atlantic.

Whether you're on the East Coast or just feel bad for the East Coast, cool off with these heat-related stats and factoids, and check back for more throughout the day.

  • Today's forecast high for Augusta, Maine, is 97 degrees, 11 degrees higher than the forecast for Honolulu.
  • Between 2001 and 2010, the average number of fatalities due to extreme heat was 115. In summer 2010, the number was 138. Heat was the largest contributor to the country's 490 weather-related fatalities last year.
  • According to the Mayo Clinic, you can still stay hydrated by drinking coffee - sort of. Contrary to popular belief, new research shows that caffeine's diuretic effects are potent only when it's consumed in large amounts. This means more than four to seven cups. Of course, water is your best bet.
  • When the Motown song "(Love is Like a) Heat Wave" was released in July  1963, temperatures in Detroit didn't top the low 90s. Wednesday, when the Midwest was bearing the brunt of the extreme heat, Detroit's high was 100 degrees.
  • According to NOAA, a car in the sun will heat up to 123 degrees in an hour when the outside temperature is just 80 degrees.
  • It really is rather "hot in Cleveland." Today's high there is 92, significantly hotter than Los Angeles' 76 degrees.
  • Washington's high of 103 degrees will feel like 117 with the humidity. In Calcutta, India, tomorrow's high of 87 degrees will feel like 100.
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Filed under: Weather
July 21st, 2011
02:51 PM ET

Yosemite tragedy underscores dangers of deceptive rivers

The Merced River's unusual force for this time of year made wading near a waterfall particularly deadly for three Yosemite visitors.

Three hikers are presumed dead after being swept over Vernal Fall, a 317-foot waterfall at Yosemite National Park, on Tuesday, according to a National Park Service news release.

Witnesses said the visitors climbed over a guardrail to put their feet in the water about 25 feet from the waterfall's edge. The hikers have been identified as Ramina Badal, 21, and Hormiz David, 22, both of Modesto, California; and Ninos Yacoub, 27, of Turlock, California.

Park officials announced Wednesday that they were presuming the visitors to be dead and will intensify search efforts as soon as the  river reaches a level low enough to look for bodies.

The Mist Trail, where the visitors were hiking, sees about 1,500 guests each day, according to the Park Service. In May, another hiker slipped from the popular trail into the Merced and drowned. Counting Tuesday's accident, there have been six water-related deaths at Yosemite this year.

Western rivers have been at record levels this summer due to large snow packs and a cool spring.

At this point in the year, the Merced would typically be at about a “trickle” at Vernal Fall, said Dave Steindorf, California stewardship director for American Whitewater. Instead, the water is still gushing at levels that are rarely seen past June. Steindorf said this is great news for experienced paddlers but can create especially dangerous situations for hikers, bathers and waders who are less familiar with river hazards.

“Walking out into a river, if you’re up to your knees, that’s about as far as you can go with being able to maintain your footing, even with just moderate force,” Steindorf said.

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Filed under: California • Hikers • Nature • Travel • U.S. • Uncategorized
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